I had been thinking about writing this blog for some time now, but had just not really gotten around to it. Last night though, a friend shared a few songs that are special to her with me for various reasons. One of those songs was Johnny Cash covering the Nine Inch Nails song Hurt. By the way, I do like the NIN version, but I think the pain and the hurt just come out in such a much deeper way, perhaps because of his deeper life experiences with such things, in the Cash version. Anyway, this has in turn put me in the mind to go ahead and write this very blog that I had been thinking about for sometime.
When I first started thinking about writing this I debated between the title as given and a title of”Johnny and June.” Even now I am still considering it. Sure, there would have perhaps been a Johnny Cash with out June, but it would not have been the Johnny Cash that we know, love and miss today with out her. And how many people, who have had that chance once or twice at a great love and messed it up? You look at Johnny and June though, who were both at odds at one point with spouses, and what a life love they ended up having. I agree, that perhaps the stage relationship and the back stage situations that we may never know fully were a contribution to some of the odds with spouses, but that is not the point. The relationships were messed up and yet with in each other they found that endearing happiness despite that, and it lasted the rest of their lives.
I recall back in maybe 4th or 5th grade, stumbling across a biography, actually it may have been an autobiography. The title was the Man in Black and it was about Johnny Cash. At the time, he was kind of hero of mine. He was what I wanted to be. Recall, right around that time he was with Willie, Kris, and Waylon and they were the cowboy outlaws of country music. Further, I was taking some guitar lessons around about that time and Johnny could certainly pick the guitar. In hindsight, little did I know I had picked a true legend when it came to his abilities with the instrument. The book itself was published in maybe the late 60′s or very early 70′s – so it really only covered the early years of his career. I don’t even recall now if it spoke of his brother’s death or not. I do recall that it talked a deal about his addictions and demons and how he struggled and overcame those – sometimes multiple times. Hindsight, perhaps a bit of a deep subject for a 4th grader, but then again I liked reading things above my own level, though now I am sure I should re-read for it a deeper understanding of things that were probably lost on me as a 10-year-old.
I could probably spend an entire blog or ten talking about how great I think Johnny’s music is. After all, there a decades of music to choose from and even through more than one re-invention of himself during his career, he still maintained an awesomeness that is just seldom matched for a career that spanned such a long time. As noted about, I think aside from the unique sound he had originally, with the driving guitar and strong male voice that helped become so famous, is just the emotional outpouring that he seemed to put into so much of his music. You get that emotional outpouring whether he is walking the line, hotter than a pepper sprout, an outlaw singing of men, guns, and white horses, green Ireland, or even covering a song about the pain that someone else wrote about that he truly made his own.
I could also spend probably the same amount of blog space talking about his relationship with June and how that is probably what kept him from becoming a headline back in the in 60′s like an Elvis or Jim Morrison did in their own times. There is no question he had issues and believe that the sweet love that came between him probably sustained him through some of that more than anything else. That love went even further than that though. There were always kids at the little farm they had and lots of animals – horses, sheep, and cows to name just a few. Beyond that though is the wholesomeness of the love. A true example of soul mates? I am not sure, but just think about the small short time there was between their passing. And what one thing for the public did Johnny do during the interval? In a short four months he made the video to Hurt, at the encouragement of June, kept working and did a few surprise performances outside Bristol, Virginia, talking about June and looking forward meeting her.
For those that may not know, there is a song out entitled Johnny and June, well worth a listen that is talking about having a love like them. I would, however, be remiss if I did not instead point you to the song Flesh and Blood, which was Johnny’s song that he said his love for June inspired.